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PA-NEDSS Frequently Asked Questions

What are the goals of the PA-NEDSS project?

PA-NEDSS seeks to provide a single, integrated Web-based application to:

  • Improve the timeliness of disease reporting
  • Provide access to complete and accurate public health data for the Commonwealth
  • Consolidate the number of existing surveillance systems into a single data repository to enhance reporting and analysis
  • Provide access to DOH, County Health Departments and Municipal Health Departments, physicians, laboratories, and hospitals to near "real-time" data through a secure system  

What kind of information and diseases are reported through PA-NEDSS and how often?

Any information, including diagnosis, onset date and test results, that is currently reported to the DOH and the CDC is reported through PA-NEDSS via the Internet. Once a patient is suspected of having a condition, the patient's suspected condition and additional details should be entered online to generate a report that can be viewed by the appropriate health department within the Commonwealth. There are a few exceptions to what can currently be reported into PA-NEDSS including animal bites and cancer. To view the list of Pennsylvania's Reportable Diseases, 

How will PA-NEDSS ensure information security?

PA-NEDSS is a Web-based application.  Several layers of security are provided including the use of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology, automatic log-off after 30 minutes of idle time, intrusion detection systems, etc.

  • Each user must register in the system once - a process that takes approximately 5 minutes.
  • A user may not keep the application open for more than 30 minutes without entering any data, moving somewhere else within the application, or renewing the session. 
  • Each user must set a security question and answer during the registration process which will be used to positively identify them when contacting the Help Desk.

What about confidentiality of information?
Based on your PA-NEDSS security privileges, you will have access to disease reports and investigations.  For example, a user from ABC Hospital can view disease reports that were submitted by ABC Hospital only.  Public health staff can only view information based on their program area (such as Infectious Diseases), geographic jurisdiction, and permissions.

When must I start using PA-NEDSS?

You should start using PA-NEDSS immediately to report diseases to the health department.  All laboratories and hospitals must comply with the regulations as soon as possible in the interest of public health.

28 Pa. Code § 27.4 states the following: (relating to reporting cases), the Department of Health (Department) will require electronic reporting of all diseases, infections and conditions listed in 28 Pa. Code Chapter 27, Subchapter B (relating to reporting of diseases, infections and conditions) through its electronic disease surveillance system, with the exception of the following diseases, infections and conditions:

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Galactosemia
  • Maple syrup urine disease
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Primary congenital hypothyroidism
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Cancer


How will using PA-NEDSS reduce redundant reporting to city and state health departments?

Entering information into PA-NEDSS will reduce the amount of duplicate reporting to various public health departments. In addition to reporting in PA-NEDSS, you must call your local health department for the 24 hour reportable diseases as indicated in the health reporting regulations identified in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.  To view the list of Pennsylvania's Reportable Diseases, click here.

Is PA-NEDSS HIPAA compliant?

Public health reporting is exempt from HIPAA regulations. The HIPAA privacy regulation permits access to individually, identifiable health information for appropriate public health use without further individual consent. PA-NEDSS includes standards for security and encryption of this data.  PA-NEDSS data that is sent to the CDC as part of the weekly disease reporting process, including the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), do not include personal identifiers, and HIPAA compliant security standards will be maintained.

How can I
learn how to use PA-NEDSS?

There are several resources and tools available to you for learning about PA-NEDSS functionality. There are online course modules which contain pre-recorded content which you can review at your own pace, online user guides and quick reference guides and several live web sessions per year on various topics. For more information on training materials, click here.

Analysis & Reporting Questions

What is Analysis & Reporting?

The Analysis & Reporting (A&R) environment is a data warehouse that takes the data in PA-NEDSS and structures it to provide answers to a set of related questions.  It provides public health staff with the ability to analyze data, review standard reports,  link statistics with patient information, create graphs, and export data to different formats.  The A&R database is refreshed on a nightly basis. 

GIS Questions

What is GIS and how does it affect PA-NEDSS?

A GIS is computer software that links geographic information (where things are) with descriptive information (what things are like). Unlike a flat paper map, where "what you see is what you get," a GIS can have many layers of information. In upcoming releases, PA-NEDSS will implement functionality that will allow investigators to plot cases on a map.

When will GIS be available for PA-NEDSS?

Currently, only a few users in public health staff have access to the GIS tools.
Mandatory reporting through the electronic disease surveillance system began on November 17, 2003.  To read the notice posted in The Pennsylvania Bulletin, click here:

What are the system requirements necessary to use PA-NEDSS?

  • Microsoft Windows 2000 SP 4 or Windows XP SP 2
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 SP 2
  • Support for session cookies (non-persistent)
  • Support for JavaScript

Technical Questions 

Application Functionality Questions

How can I access PA-NEDSS?

Since PA-NEDSS is a Web-based reporting tool, you  will need Internet access and authorization to log on to the application.  If you are a public health employee, contact your supervisor for access.  If you work in a hospital or laboratory, contact the head of infection control or the laboratory director, and he/she should be able to identify the person who may add users to the system.  If you are a physician licensed in the Commonwealth of PA, e-mail us at NEDSS@pa.gov and identify the organization you are affiliated with and if you are a licensed physician.  

How long does it take to enter a disease report into PA-NEDSS?

A laboratory user may take less than five minutes to enter a disease report into PA-NEDSS for a new patient.  Since physicians and hospitals have access to additional information, such as patient's symptoms, treatments, or risk factors, the time to complete a full report will be longer. One note to consider is that information provided up-front should reduce the time it would take to respond to phone inquiries from a public health investigator.

What happens if test results are entered incorrectly or have changed since entered into PA-NEDSS?

If results were entered incorrectly or changed since initial entry into PA-NEDSS, you will be able to update the information if it has not yet been viewed by public health staff. If the report has been viewed by public health staff, you can either submit a new report in PA-NEDSS with the updated information or call your local health department to notify them of the change. 

What should I do with disease reports that need to be transferred to another state?

Report the patient using PA-NEDSS as you would for an in-state patient.  The health department will transfer the report to the appropriate jurisdiction. 

What is the accession number and how is it used?  Is the number unique to a patient?

The accession number should be a unique number generated by a laboratory to track the patient's laboratory specimen.  The accession number should be entered by laboratories when entering a report in PA-NEDSS.  By entering the accession number and patient's last name, a search can be performed to locate the patient's record.
Since a physician/hospital may not ever see the laboratory specimen number generated by the hospital microbiology laboratory or reference laboratory, many PA-NEDSS organizations have decided to use the patient's medical record number as a way to link the patient to a unique identifier and to locate the patient's record.

I am a Physician …

How will I participate?

If you are licensed by the Commonwealth, you were mailed a letter in the Fall of 2002 with instructions on how to gain access to PA-NEDSS.  If you did not respond, send an email containing your name, contact information, and medical license # to the DOH Security Office to receive your registration information. Once you register, you can submit reports in PA-NEDSS or you can designate individuals (at various locations) who can enter data on your behalf.

I am a representative of a Pennsylvania hospital…

How will I participate?

A prime contact needs to be identified for each hospital. This person will then designate the individuals that may enter data on the hospital's behalf into PA-NEDSS.  Most hospital CEOs have identified someone in the infection control department to be their "prime contact." If you feel that you should have access to PA-NEDSS, contact your infection control department. 

I am a representative of a laboratory licensed by Pennsylvania…

How will I participate?

A prime contact needs to be identified for each laboratory.  This is usually the laboratory director. He/she will be able to grant you PA-NEDSS access. 
If you currently report data in the HL7 format, this will continue.  If you do not report data this way, you will need to enter information directly into PA-NEDSS.  If your laboratory is working with the Commonwealth of PA to take data that resides in one of your computer systems and transfer it to the DOH, this will continue.

The following system requirements must be met to use PA-NEDSS: click here